SD Loyal earn consecutive TOTW honors to start 2023 campaign


Credit: Jeremy Collins/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Don De Mars Photography/EVT

The San Diego Loyal have played extremely well through the first two weeks of the 2023 USL Championship season. They are (2-0-0) with six points and sit atop the Western Conference standings.

Player awards are a huge deal for this squad. The 2022 Team of the Week winners included Tumi Moshobane, Alejandro Guido, Grant Stoneman, Collin Martin, and Koke Vegas. Vegas has now won his second as a member of San Diego Loyal.

In the Season Opener, San Diego took down a gritty Detroit City squad 1-0 that didn’t see much offense at all. 19-year-old defender Jackson “Simba” Kasanzu scored the only goal of the match right before halftime to give the Loyal the advantage.

Simba was awarded Team of the Week honors for Week 1 as his goal was the winner for the Loyal. He also won 2 of 2 tackles and 4 of 6 aerial duels against Detroit.

The process certainly hasn’t been easy for Simba at all, and in fact, he didn’t even know he was going to play soccer as a career. The passion and decision to play has certainly paid off, as he is now seeing it all play out in front of him.

Simba did not see any action in Week 2, but will certainly be a huge part of the success of this team.

Don De Mars Photography/EVT

The goalkeeper representing the Week 2 TOTW is Koke Vegas. The Spanish keeper ended with his second consecutive clean sheet to start the season.

Vegas finished with three saves in the 3-0 win over Phoenix Rising FC. Not only did he have three saves, but the Loyal defenders did a great job of keeping the Rising attackers in rhythm. Phoenix attempted 15 shots with 10 inside the box. Yet, they were held scoreless.

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Vegas’s presence in the net is starting to reek of intimidation, and opponents are going to forced to know that scoring on him will be a difficult task.

“He has never really been a full time starter before,” head coach Nate Miller said. “He’s been moving clean with no mistakes. He’s also been asked to do a ton in build-ups, I ask a lot of Koke. He looks like he is in mid-season form and he’s performing at a high standard right now and that is definitely a big difference compared to where we were at last year.”

Vegas is tied for 11th in the USL with five saves but is the only keeper with two clean sheets on the season. New Mexico United is the only other team not to allow a goal this season.

The next match will be this Saturday, March 25 on the road against Sacramento Republic FC. The match starts at 7 pm as the Loyal aim to stay undefeated.

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